Buses Versus Boring Tunnels

Thunderfoot is a youtuber who mocks and criticizes many things. Sometimes he is right like criticizing Indiegogo ripoffs which promote dangerous air pumped mini-scuba tanks. He can also be right when he aggregates criticism of three UFO videos made public by the Pentagon. However, there are other times he gets it very wrong with his arguments against SpaceX and Boring Company.

Here we will go over his Boring Company critique. He makes the argument that moving 1200 people an hour could be done cheaper with buses instead of in Tesla EVs going through tunnels. Yes, I can ride a bus and it is cheaper than car, but riding a bus is not the same as riding a car. There is the experience of riding in a luxury Tesla versus being loaded on a full or nearly full bus. It would not just be a regular bus. Thunderfoot wants you to get around the current Vegas convention center in a double articulated bendy bus.

The calculation of how many people per hour can be moved through the Boring System is also wrong. Thunderfoot claims loading or unloading 100 people at a time can be done in a minute. He claims loading four people into a car is one minute. The car has four doors. So one person can enter into each door. It takes 30 seconds to load a car with people waiting at a stop. 100 people would need to enter through at most four doors. It will take over 25 times longer for 100 people to enter the bus. It would also take time for the people to walk to their seats and get seated. It would take more time if they were carrying items and if there were many old people. It will take 10-20 minutes to fully load and unload the bus.

The current system is just the beginning. It will be extended to the entire Vegas Strip and out to the airport. Vegas also has other monorail transport systems between casinos. Vegas wants to move people as quickly as possible between locations (convention center, casino and airport). Also, it matters where things are placed. Having an underground station that goes into the heart of a casino or convention center is different then being left 300 feet away on the curb. Walking 300 feet through a casino or convention center can easily take ten minutes.

Buses would travel on the surface and there would be traffic. Vegas has heavy traffic at rush hour and on the strip. The strip is especially busy on the weekend. The Boring tunnel system will be extended to whole strip. I have driven between Vegas casinos with a rental car. I have ridden a bus from the Vegas airport to the Casinos. Traffic is frequently a problem.

The Boring Tunnel is going up against subway and light rail. The tunnel component is ten to one hundred times cheaper than other tunnels in the USA. Subways in the US like BART can cost up to $1 billion per mile but are typically $100 million per mile.

Warren Redlich makes several of these points about the obvious problems with Thunderfoots Boring Tunnel complaints.

The Onion did a bit on buses instead of high speed rail. High speed rail projects can be disastrous and massive waste. However, there is more to making an equivalent transportation substitution.

SOURCES – Warren Redlich, Thunderfoot, The Onion
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com

31 thoughts on “Buses Versus Boring Tunnels”

  1. That's amazing. Yes, that definitely qualifies. If I was going to do a rideshare, I'd want it in something like this. I'd love to see how the public reacts.

  2. Boston does, although that section of the Silver Line was intended to eventually be converted to lightrail.

  3. That guy is just ANNOYING. He screws everything up.
    Btw, they ran a test of the tunnel and hit their 4,400 ppl/hr goal and can scale it up

  4. I've watched thunderfoot videos a few times and he generally is pretty spot on with better science than this site provides. I am making this comment from looking at the first paragraph only. I'll update if needed after I read it. Very unlikely I'll need to.

  5. Thunderf00t was at least funny at first with Solar Roadways, glorified dehumidifiers and the anti-nuke sensationalism stuff.
    lately he has just been…well, a bore.

  6. oh what a load! He actually claimed to be an expert in IR because he uses it every day!
    What exactly has he debunked? The velocity of an object that no one actually made claims of being demonstrated in a video?
    Or how about the "splash" video that(him or at least others) claimed was just a jet going over the horizon despite not diminishing in size but is now backed by NV and RADAR footage of dozens of objects swarming a US Naval ship, appearing and disappearing out of nowhere, with loitering times in the hours and accelerating from stationary to 160mph+ in seconds.

    But I guess we should trust the Youtuber known to leave out information to support his side(very sloppily as well) and not the professionals that we spent millions on their training.

  7. TBC/Musk has already said they plan to make a 16 seat 'minibus' for TBC tunnels. Tesla is busy with other irons in the fire, and maybe this needs to wait for Tesla to build a larger platform (could also be used for delivery vans). Using off the shelf cars like Model Y/Model X is just a bridge for demonstrating the system and learning what works and what doesn't.

    Trains require bigger tunnels. One thing we could potentially do it get TBC to apply their process improvements for tunneling to rail tunnels. They have to be larger diameter for ADA requirements, etc. but it would be very useful for moving people in the densest cities.

  8. Surface busses compare with the performance of dedicated tunnels, only when they operate on dedicated lanes. In urban areas, right of way makes tunnels much cheaper. Passengers with no luggage can navigate small vehicles more quickly. Passengers with luggage are quicker with walk on vehicles, having lots of doors, particularly if some items require deposit in the trunk(f).

  9. Good breakdown, but I feel that the 'privacy' issue needs to be addressed separately too. We've all seen the comments that many people simply don't want to share the bus space with other humans.

    That seems to indicate PRT is the way to go, but you could also imagine a bus which is nothing but a row of doors along the side and subdivided between each. Every set of doors could open onto two seats or so, like a private booth. The doors would only open once payment was rendered (likely electronically), and would stay closed until the occupant departs.

    This would come at the cost of space efficiency, but most buses aren't filled to capacity anyway. If this was sufficient to attract people, then average load would be increased at the expense of maximum load.

    Does anyone know of an example like this? I've never heard of it being tried.

  10. Do you need large parking lots there too, or are they cycled back, perhaps without people?

    Cycling back is the plan, and without the rental counter. But I get your point, you either have cars waiting for people (some kind of parking), or you have people waiting for cars.

    They make it look like they'll just have cars waiting. But it depends on whether or not they calculate their demand appropriately, and it could easily turn into people waiting if they were off.

  11. As I recall the original plans, the cars in the tunnel were dedicated to the tunnel, not cars driven into the tunnel off the street. If that is still the plan, then I think your argument about spending time at the car rental counter in the airport and where to park the car at the destination do not apply.

  12. Seriously though, you have functionally two mixed comparisons here.

    surface transport vs tunnel transport
    PRT/robotaxi vs high occupancy vehicle (HOV)

    PRT wants grade separated passage, so it would get slowed down having to navigate surface streets. As full self driving comes along, some but not all of the speed problems may be alleviated on street navigation of a PRT pod.

    HOV needs to look hard at the door/stairs problem relative to total occupancy. Light rail tends to have more doors with no stairs on the vehicle for quick alighting. Buses and bendy buses fall into either the few door/many door version split. US mass transit buses typically have only one or two doors. One door models typically have stairs. Two door models often have stairs unless they are a "low step" type. Those stairs block speedy loading, so the usual workarounds are either elevated bus stops or a third door aft of the rear axles. Elevated stops are functionally fixed stations though.

    Electric buses, especially the ones with three or more axles and using drop axles (and maybe hub motors), allow a lower stance allowing easier street boarding (especially if they can kneel), avoiding fixed stations.

  13. Why is a train more comfortable than a bus? It's the unpredictable starts and stops of a bus. Very uncomfortable. A train has smooth acceleration/deceleration, and only at stops.

  14. All good points, but if you're getting a rental Tesla at the airport, I would assume that would take time too. Especially about 20 minutes after a couple large airplanes land. Then what happens to these cars once the riders get to the casino? Do you need large parking lots there too, or are they cycled back, perhaps without people?

    Definitely pros and cons, the only things I see as clear are the expense of building the tunnels in the first place, and no local traffic to deal with underground.

    I like the light rail (ATS) at Chicago O'Hare, going between terminals and remote parking. It's automated (no driver), there's a train every 5 minutes, and it's easy on, easy off.

  15. Except for the fact that he successfully did debunk the UFOs videos and he has a professional training in understanding data since he is a successful academic with several publications on peer reviewed journals.

  16. This system wasn't built to maximize the number of people moved per hour per dollar of vehicle equipment. It was built to maximize the number of miles a person moves per minute of their time.

    Smaller vehicles leaving more frequently in a dedicated corridor will win definitely that race.

  17. Most buses don't fully load or unload all passengers at a single stop, so typical stop times are much less than that.

    Yes, although that brings us to the real reason buses are slow compared to cars. They make frequent stops. In my experience you budget an hour for a bus trip that would take twenty minutes by car.

    But the Las Vegas circuit between specific hotels, casinos, and a convention center are not the same thing as a regular bus trip. Presumably a dedicated shuttle bus wouldn't be picking up people from every street corner, and you actually would load or unload a significant fraction of the bus at the stops you actually do make.

    It wouldn't take 30 minutes to load if people are already lined up, but then that just means they're spending their time waiting in line. The bigger the vehicle, the fewer of them leave per hour, the more people have to wait.

  18. Agreed. The analysis in the article definitely has some hyperbole. You can load an actual airplane with more than 100 people, all with carry-ons, thru a single door in about 10 – 15 minutes.

    People are lined up to get in a bus, they enter one after another, no more than 5 second delay between people … unless they're fumbling around for exact fare, or have a baby stroller, etc. By the time the last people are on board, everybody else has already found a seat. Assume fare is paid before they get to the bus, or they just swipe a card: two doors, 10 people/minute at a door, plus 1 minute for last people to find a seat = 100 people in 6 minutes.

    Most buses don't fully load or unload all passengers at a single stop, so typical stop times are much less than that.

  19. No, Thunder blunder hasn't proved anything regarding the UFO videos. Move on to someone with actual professional training!

  20. Any theoretical maximums goes out the window when it encounters the inertia of people being people. Not everyone wants to mix with the great unwashed masses, but It depends on your goals. If you're interested in maximizing throughput of travelers, cars is definitely not the way to go. To reduce cars on the street level and increase bus travel times, create a high occupancy HOV lane.

  21. I like ThunderF00t for a lot of things he does. His bashing of Musk lately is off- putting though. He also missed the point of the Boring tunnel. With that one, I can go whenever I want to (provided enough cars are available). If the bus goes every 10 minutes, then my trip (for me personally) takes 10 minutes longer if I just missed it.

  22. Boring tunnel in current form is a joke and everyone knows that, even fans.
    If he wants to be hired for larger projects they will probably force/pressure him or he will change his mind himself seeing that car form is not efficient enough and make some sort of metro bus/vehicle which could take many people at once, basically reinventing the metro.

    If they will be able to do it super cheap, I could also imagine double tunnel, one for cars and other for some kind of futuristic train (like in Minority Report)

    If they figure out safety, make them 10-100x faster and 10x cheaper then I guess there will be market for such mini scale metro

    Even better outcome will be if they(or some other company) will design and build regular size (12m or so) tunnel boring machine that will be able to dig 10-100x faster than current versions

  23. It will take over 25 times longer for 100 people to enter the bus. It would also take time for the people to walk to their seats and get seated. It would take more time if they were carrying items and if there were many old people. It will take 10-20 minutes to fully load and unload the bus.

    I think the best analogy is the buses that a lot of airports send out to pick you up from the plane when there is no available spot to link up to an airbridge.

    This is a selection of the general public including many older people.
    These people mostly have luggage with them.
    The buses are fairly optimized with big, wide opening doors to allow everyone to get on and off quickly at one location.

    In my experience it takes about 5 minutes to load up such a bus. This is assuming there is a crowd waiting to get on as soon as the bus arrives.

    A bit faster to unload because people don't have to find a spot, they just need to get off.

    riding a bus is not the same as riding a car. There is the experience of riding in a luxury Tesla versus being loaded on a full or nearly full bus.

    Absolutely this. Buses have long been shown to be the cheapest way to set up a flexible public transport system. You need a huge ridership with a limited set of stops before trains are cheaper over intra-city distances.

    And people just don't like buses. People prefer trains. If you can make a bus be as pleasant as a train you can solve transport issues in a thousand cities, but nobody has done it yet.

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